Being a Single Dad

Single parenthood comes with its share of trials, joys, frustrations and tribulations. It is certainly not easy, not for the mothers, neither for the fathers. A lot is said about single mothers, but not much about single fathers. Though an anomaly, the number of single fathers has been on the rise.

 John Townend, a British citizen shares his experience, and tells his story as a single dad through this post. John currently lives in the U.K.  According to data available from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in 2012 alone, lone fathers represented 13.5% of all single-parent UK households

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IMG_4776It all started last July. My being a single dad.

I brought our son, Cameron, from Jamaica to England to meet his relatives when his mum was travelling for work. The initial plan was for him to stay with me for two weeks. Those two weeks have extended to becoming a nine month long journey. And my son and I, we have settled in quite well. My love for him has only strengthened. Nothing in the world would make me swap these last 9 months. This bond won’t break, no matter what happens in the future

I’ve been a father before (4 times) but never a single dad.  I wasn’t that involved with bringing up my other kids and this was all very new to me. There was this awesome sense of responsibility to make sure that my little fella stayed healthy. That he didn’t fall ill, that his meals were nutritious and that he was being hygienic. I remember feeling overwhelmed. Not one detail could be missed, not one, absolutely none.

Over time though, my worries are easing out. I am getting more comfortable with the role. Mostly due to friends and family being a bulwark of support, an accessible child health care centre and its troop of dependable staff, and a super good neighbourhood school.  Due credit to Skype too- it’s been godsend. It is how Cameron and his mum Shirlet keep in touch regularly. She talks to him, keeps an eye on his progress and once in a while tells me off, especially if his nails are too long and if he is wearing the same clothes two days running.

IMG_1422_1Surprises about bringing up a child spring at you from every direction and you learn to deal with them, with and without realizing. Without noticing, steadily, gradually and sometimes suddenly, they become part of your common sense. It is a most fulfilling process really (in retrospect). Cameron and I used to have daily battles in the bathroom over shampooing his hair. Those battles have been long fought and forgotten. A relative advised me to calm down and wash his hair, only when he is ready to do it himself. It might seem like one of those “what’s the big deal?” situations, but try having a rational argument with a three year old, about the benefits of soaps and shampoo. It’s baffling I assure you.

Then there were some battles which seemed insurmountable. I was concerned about Cameron’s education. How could I have my half Jamaican little boy fit into a very white middle class village community in England? I approached Kath, the principal of the neighbourhood school. Kath is trained in the principles of learning through play, and has done a wonderful job in getting children up the learning curve in their early years. She also offered sound advice to me. With help from an array of extra-curricular activities, my boy is picking up fast. My son is now successfully enrolled and attends school three and a half days a week. What helps a lot is that he is an adaptable child. He has no qualms at all in walking up to people and flashing a smile and exchanging a three-year-old’s pleasantries.

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Cameron making friends with his disarming charm 🙂

I will never forget his first day of school. Not least because neither of us cried, but because I just did not know what to do with myself for the first few hours after he was gone. It sunk in then how parenting is really a 24×7 occupation and the fantastic sacrifice women make when bringing up children. I do not think a lot of people realize what actually goes into this process which actually becomes your life. Don’t get me wrong, parenting can be very satisfying too, particularly in these early years, but the commitment made is mind boggling.

I wake up at 6 am with Cameron’s foot in my ear and for the next twelve hours and a little bit more, my life revolves around him. Even when I am alone, I am constantly making and revising mental check-lists. Some of the most important questions of my life are not about meetings and office schedules, but revolve currently around:

“What will we have for dinner?”

“Have we got enough toilet rolls and/or nappies?”

“What about bread for his sandwiches tomorrow?”

“What happened to the washing- did I leave it in the dryer?”

“Have I paid his school fees?”

…and on and on this list goes.

Cameron has taught me a lot without knowing it. His sense of innocence is as lovely as it is refreshing. Things that puzzle him in life, he turns to me to solve with strong conviction that I know all the answers. And it is a challenge answering a child’s question to satisfaction. In trying to do so I have gone back and questioned so many things that I previously took for granted myself.

If I had made more effort earlier in life in being more involved in bringing up my children and being more than the bread winner, I am sure I would have done better to save my own marriage. As a small step in addressing this malaise, I propose that instead of having a Mother’s Day, we have a ‘Mothers Week’ or at the very least a ‘Mums weekend’, when the man of the house makes all the decisions to keep the family on track. I think it might just save a lot of marriages.

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